Our Spotlight series emerged out of the desire for audiences and other artists to connect with dancers who they may not know–because the artist is new to the area, or from a different generation or pocket of the dance scene. The Q&A format lets Seattle dance artists to introduce themselves in their own words, or share where they are in this moment in time.
Name and pronoun:
Akoiya Harris, she/her
When did you come to Seattle and why?
I’m originally from here, my family migrated to the Central District from Louisiana in the 60s. But I left for school and returned after graduating because I had gotten a job with Spectrum that started fall of 2019.
What’s your role in Seattle dance?
I feel like I wear many hats, I guess you can say I’m an active participant. I used to be a company artist with Spectrum Dance Theater. Since then, I’ve been freelancing. I’ve gotten to work on some really cool projects, both with Seattle based and outside choreographers. I’ve also begun to create work of my own and been able to show it in some great spaces around the city. I teach as well, at Spectrum and PNB year round, and Ailey Camp in the summers. I’ve also been working to archive Seattle Black Dance oral histories through a project with Wa Na Wari. I’ve even dabbled in some dance writing through Black Embodiments Studio.
What kind of work is your favorite to make/do?
I have a sense of necessity around doing things that reflect and respect the culture I come from. I want to be a part of art making where I’m given space to write my script as a Black Queer Femme into the narrative. That doesn’t always mean being a part of “Black projects” but in order for me to feel comfortable, the makeup of my identity has to be considered by those at the front of the room.
As a maker, I’ve been interested in looking at ways in which the body and voice respond to each other. I think it’s because of my love for Ntozake Shange and her choreopoems. Luckily I have friends who are amazing poets and have let me use old work of theirs as well as written new pieces for projects I’ve done.
Really, I like making work with friends. It reminds me of being a kid and choreographing to Destiny’s Child and Ciara with my cousins. It’s fun setting work on friends, having them set work on me, and creating things together. I also like reaching out to my non-dancer friends and seeing what comes out of that. Just a whole bunch of homies making art, tryna get paid.
Tell us about your next performance.
This isn’t my next performance, there’s a couple things happening before, but I’m really excited about A PRACTICE OF RETURN. It’s happening with The Black Collectivity Project through Nia-Amina Minor’s Made In Seattle residency. She brought myself, marco farroni, and David Rue on as collaborators and we’ve been working together for a little over a year on building the project. We’ve been deep in the basements of UW’s library looking at archival materials, conducting oral history interviews, experimenting with ways to choreograph the archive, reaching out to the community to collaborate. I’ve never been a part of building a show from scratch and I’m so grateful to be learning the process with such an amazing team. I’m really excited to be able to share it with everyone.
What do you bring to the rehearsal room?
I’m a virgo moon and I think I fully embody that in processes. If it’s someone else’s rehearsal, I’ll take some diligent notes and remember what you said you wanted to get through at the top of the day.
Tell us about your favorite performance that you’ve seen in Seattle and why you loved it.
That’s hard, there’s so much great work happening here. In June of 2021 I went to a work in progress showing at Base of Jade Solomon’s Keeper of Sadness. Tilly Evans-Krueger danced and the audience was a lot of familiar faces in the Black dance community here. The showing came during a time when I didn’t know what was next and that made me nervous. While watching, I was reminded that if I can count on anything, it’s that the world is going to dump its heaviness on the backs of Black femmes. At times we lend each other our sadness so that we can remember how to stand up. Carrying it all on our own will make us crumble. This ignited in me the desire to turn to community and start creating work through the support it offered me.
What are some media that you love or that are influencing you right now?
Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, Audre Lorde’s essay Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power are three works that I often find myself returning to for grounding purposes. They make me feel seen, held, and challenged.
Recommend three things!
If you’re in Seattle, go spend a day supporting the Central District (Arte Noir, Communion, Wa Na Wari, Simply Soulful, Central Cafe, Cafe Avole, etc.) but maybe consider not moving there…
Get a dog, great for mental health. Get one from the pound for ethical reasons plus they’re cheaper there. If you can’t commit to a dog, maybe a fish.
Talk to the elders in your life. Write down their stories, record their voices, remind them that they still matter.
If people wanted to follow you and your work, what is the best way for them to do that?